Friday, August 17, 2012

Work Hard, Rest Hard

This week has been every bit as unpredictable and demanding as I expected.  I have (whew!) risen to the tasks as far as I know, and arrangements for production and staffing for our major event seem to be in place, again as far as I know, but it has not been without cost.  I expected that, too.

By Wednesday evening, I was experiencing chest tightness and flutters;  I had been up half the night before;  and I was reaching the danger point that I've passed in other years, the tripwire that launches a full fledged anxiety attack.  It was time to pull out all the guns in my relaxation arsenal.

I started my intensive letting-go therapy with a trip through the grocery store, because yes, I even enjoy the gathering of the food that makes the good dinner. With no hubby rendezvous--Dave was out for the night at a play read through--I had no deadline, however welcome it always is.  Whenever I caught myself rushing, as I had been doing all day, I reminded myself to notice the gorgeous color and seasonal price of red peppers, breathe deeply while waiting at the deli counter, stroll with the buggy as if I had all time in the world.  The long wind-down was beginning.

After shopping and buying gas, enjoying the breezes while I waited by the pump, I drove home with the windows down, imagining my cares blowing away, too.  I listened to my favorite regional station, WOBO out of Batavia, Ohio, which plays delightful swing and big band music.  It's hard to be troubled when listening to Glen Miller or Frankie.

Once home, I fixed a simple dinner of cashew fried rice and cardamom-dusted orange slices, and lazily did the few dishes, still bopping lightly to my retro tunes now streaming online.

Then the heavy recuperative artillery came out. I did something I've not done since we moved into this barn/house, a time when I was equally strained by finishing school and moving:  I took a long, soaking bath with lavender-sage bubbles and read a glossy magazine while I let the hot-tubbish heat penetrate my tightened body until beads of sweat stood out on my forehead.  Then I slathered myself gently with lavender-sage lotion and got straight into my pajamas for some pressure-less reading.

After all that, I was a  warm noodle of a human being who could sit for meditation and find a little peace behind the cantering heart and scanning thoughts. I went to bed early and barely knew when my sweet husband arrived home.  I'll admit to taking two Benadryl for insurance, prepared to suffer the hangover if it meant sleeping, which is so important to sanity.  To my surprise, I woke promptly, and my first thought was "I feel good."  Mission accomplished.

Not that I was absolutely untroubled from then on.  I was wound up again before the morning was over, just not dangerously so. But I knew what to do: draw that big fat line in the sands of the day that says work is over and restoration can begin. You can't have me any more cruel world.  I'm in the fortress of serenity.  See you in the morning.

The waves of hyper-alterness and uber-vigilance I'm experiencing are part of high-demand times for me (and probably most people).  When they build, as they did that day, to tightness and bird-like flappings in my chest, I'm no longer scared.  I've been checked out.  I know that it's just strain or fear.  I disarm it with a factual greeting, and set to caring for my ailing self.

I also don't berate myself anymore for getting stressed.  It's human of me.  If I get more jittery and jangled than the average person, it is, I believe, the flip-side of the permeable empathy that has me clapping along with someone else's joy or feeling just as giddy and rapturous as I do strained and scared. That I wouldn't want to lose.  I just have to manage its twin well.

Luckily I learned years ago that it's not so bad to work hard and be stressed.  It's actually very difficult to avoid either circumstance.  The crucial skill is to balance the body and mind with equally generous rest.  Even a few hours of carefully calculated non-activity can right the up-ended.  I can take whatever the day brings if there's a good meal and some rest at the end of it and whatever the week dishes if I have my Sabbath retreat waiting for me like a tropical island.

I have, through trial and learning (no error), ironically ended up meeting the prescription for anxiety management that I found in the books I read about the subject back when my woes were given a name years ago.  At the time their recommendation of one hour a day and one day a week of down time seemed simply impossible.  By listening closer to my instincts and observing what worked to keep me happier, I've met those experts' mark without intending to.  Apparently, they were right after all.

It seems that the cure for extremity is extremity, a burning out of the negative, like a good hard run or push ups when you're angry, or vigorous cleaning when you're worried.   Other times, that extremity comes in the form of intense rest and pampering, or pure and intentional escape, being as lost in the pleasant recovery as in the perturbing activity.  Our bodies and minds, like this part of the planet, benefit from seasons and cycles.  They don't take well to either unending productivity or constant leisure.  We need balance.

Thus the motto for consuming times: work hard, rest hard.  It gets me through in better style.  Just one more day until the rest gets deliciously deeper.   Aaah....

1 comment:

Dave Flora said...

"You can't have me any more cruel world. I'm in the fortress of senility."
That's my catch-phrase! :)
I feel more relaxed just reading about your day, sweetie. I need to make an appointment with that tub...